Language versions: English |

“Smart Mobile Senior Citizens” engaged senior citizens throughout the Flemish Region (Belgium) to get to know sustainable transport modes in real life and increase their use. The project initiator has been a Belgium NGO called Mobiel 21, which for the implementation closely co-operated with municipalities and organisations of senior citizens. An important element is the self-activation of the older people, meaning that senior organisations take the lead in implementing the local actions. Until the final project year of 2009, 12 municipalities have participated.


Research figures indicate senior citizens in Flanders prove to be very linked to their car. Even in the situation where all citizens of 65+ can obtain a pass for free public transport. In order to change senior citizens’ negative perception of sustainable modes and to encourage them to walk and cycle more, in this project four themes or actions were offered to senior citizens and their organisations. The aims of the project Smart Mobile Senior project were:

  • Meeting elderly mobility needs
  • Tackling social exclusion
  • Raising Awareness and reaching behavioural change on sustainable mobility


The four actions offered for local implementation were:

  • Make a smart mobile trip: encourage senior citizens organisations to go on foot, by bike or use public transport when organising a group trip;
  • Test the bus in a buddy system: setting up a 'test the bus’- programme where skilled bus users accompany lesser skilled bus users in the same municipality on how to use the bus;
  • Short trip contract (under 5 kilometres): members of senior citizens organisations engage themselves to walk, cycle or use public transport more during one month signing a short trip contract; In this project it was found that not environment but health was the most important motivator
  • Policy recommendations: Mobiel 21 supports senior citizens organisations in participating in their local mobility policy.

In total, actions were started up in 12 Flemish municipalities.
The project approach is built from an NGO perspective with the aim is to promote sustainable transport. Mobiel21, as NGO, is facilitating the process, by trying to convince people, not by forcing them to change. Projects are implemented in partnerships with senior organisations, municipalities and companies. The project is all about communication and works towards a sustainable change by applying the so-called “4 E’s” approach:

  • Enable: Guarantee basic mobility: In Flanders all citizens have access to Public Transport within 500 metres from their door
  • Encourage: social price police (incentives): In Belgium all citizens above 65 get a free public transport pass. Even so, only 10% of the bus rides are made by older people while they represent 20% of the population.
  • Exemplify: offer chances to test public transport
  • Engage: working within own social networks

When offering chances to experience sustainable transport modes a step-by-step approach is needed. The first step is to have senior citizens themselves do a quick scan of the needs by taking questionnaires with other older people. The training programme then has to cover these needs. The trainers are older people themselves and are trained at the start of the project. Couples of trainer and trainee are formed. Since they are both older citizens they can be considered as peers. If needed, elements of the training are repeated.

When working with social networks of seniors, the first step is to recruit volunteers/local champs amongst local senior advisory board and to communicate transparently with them about the project. It is important to build a relationship based on mutual trust. Older citizens organisation normally have time to dedicate to the project and are open to peer group involvement.

Mobiel 21 produced a periodic newsletter to promote the project. If there was an interest from a municipally Mobiel21 got into contact with the local senior advisory council and tried to convince them to work on mobility.


Results showed that in order to engage senior citizens in using more sustainable travel modes the following issues are relevant:

  • The topic of traffic safety proved to be very important;
  • Involvement of younger senior citizens (55-60 years of age) proved to be substantial in all actions because they lead more active lives and can pull along the other members;
  • It is important to present easily manageable ideas to senior citizens organisations.


Mr. Patrick Auwerx
Firm: Mobiel21
Address: Vital Decosterstraat 67 A , 3000 - Leuven, Belgium
Phone: +32 16 31 77 00


More information (in Dutch) is available via

The AENEAS project is supported by:
Inteligent Energy
The sole responsibility for the content of this case study lies with the authors.
It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Communities.
The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.